There Are No Gatekeepers

Gatekeeper.

That’s an interesting word. Let’s check Webster’s Dictionary for the definition:

gate·keep·er

/ˈɡātˌkēpər/

noun

• an attendant at a gate who is employed to control who goes through it.

• a person or thing that controls access to something.

“the primary-care doctor serves as the gatekeeper to specialists”

It’s the second meaning that I see some refer to when discussing the comic book industry.

The Gold Standard returns this week in your LCS

Lately, I’ve been doing  a LOT of podcasts, interviews and presentations. All of them, in one form or another, incorporate the question, “How does one get into the comic book industry?” That question is easy to answer:

Make a comic book.  

Simple answer, right? Perhaps it’s too simple an answer. There must be something more involved to the process. There’s a reason why some comics succeed and some don’t, right? There has to be. For some, there has to be some outside force that’s preventing their ascension to the top of the charts.

“Money for marketing. That’s it. We don’t have enough money for marketing. Naw, it’s because we’re not unified as one comic book company. Yeah. That’s the reason why our books don’t get the acclaim that DC or Marvel get. No wait, I got it! The reason why we’re not getting noticed is because of the industry gatekeepers! Yeah! Distribution! Marketing budgets! Lack of corporate funding! All them gatekeepers. That’s why!”

Ummm… No.

There are no gatekeepers.

The grand finale to an epic run is also hitting the stands this week…

There is nothing keeping anyone from creating, printing, distributing and marketing your comic book. There is nothing in the way of preventing said creator to find, advertise and sell to their intended audience.

Print-On-Demand (POD) printers and distributors such as Amazon, Drive Thru Comics, Ka-Blam, Barnes & Noble will not only print books as needed, but also place them for sale in their online marketplaces with no cost for set-up fees nor minimum print runs.

Independent creators don’t need to follow the success model of the “Corporate Two.” We don’t have to pay for that infrastructure to be successful.

In terms of marketing, I have found that independent comic book creators actually do MORE promotion than the “Corporate Two” from consistent posting on social media, podcasts, conventions, etc.

Regina King is about to bring this gem to the screen!

Many of us #BlackComix creators already have our own comic book companies. Many of us have our distribution streams down pat as well as promoting our products throughout social media and other venues. In addition, there is an entire network of conventions, and a growing number of Local Comic Book Stores (LCS) that are owned by and cater to the African American audience.

Independent comics are having a moment, especially #BlackComix. For example, The World of Asunda (Niobe: She Is Life) is being developed for an HBO series, Bitter Root is being developed at Legendary (directed by Regina King) and more. Hell, my book The Horsemen is part of a long-term installation in the Smithsonian.

So many independent Black creators (that apparently don’t have the budget for promotion) are making power moves that are getting noticed. You may try and write off Kickstarter, but these cats are selling in-store numbers based on the funding goals.

I am SO looking forward to having this book in my hands this summer!

So, at the end of the day, the real fantasy is that #BlackComix are languishing unheard when cats like YouNeek Studios (Malika, EXO) signed major distribution deals with Dark Horse or a Black Comix company like Advent Comics signing with Diamond Distribution to get their books into your LCS or brothers like John Jennings (Kindred) are overseeing imprints like Megascope and pushing content that the public, at large, are picking up.

Nothing holds us back. Personally, I’m not competing with DC or Marvel. Different companies, different sizes, different goals. In fact, I’m not competing with anyone but myself.

There are no gatekeepers.

So, if there are no gatekeepers, how does one garner acclaim for the book that they want to create? The answer that question is simple:

Do the work.

Books like Abbott exist because the creators did what needed to be done!

This is doing the work:

Make the product. Make sure that the product can stand shoulder to shoulder with the industry standard and make sure that your product stands out from the rest.

Figure out what success looks like for YOU, not the “Corporate Two.” You don’t have corporate dollars. You don’t have damn near 100 years of market saturation. So why try to fashion your business after a model that is, honestly, outdated?

Market your product. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of money to market effectively. Again, social media has democratized the playing field. Me interacting with you, right now, is an act of marketing. But you have to know who you are as a brand to market effectively.

BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN THE COMMUNITY. Real talk, the reason why this question pisses me off is because every who asks this question is not doing their homework. Again, y’all so focused on what the “Corporate Two” is doing, y’all haven’t really been paying attention to the network that has already been created. I see more cats bitching about Black Superman than showing love to a book like Tuskegee Heirs. There is a whole history of #BlackComix that has been present since the beginning of the industry. More cats need to read up on it.

And don’t say that the work isn’t promoted because it pops up in Facebook groups & ads, Instagram and Pinterest posts as well as Twitter feeds all day, every day.

The reason why I created the 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape anthology series was to show that we don’t need one company to represent #BlackComix. Just like Hip Hop isn’t just Death Row or Tommy Boy or Disturbing Tha Peace, #BlackComix isn’t just Stranger Comics or Advent Comics or Griot Enterprises. It’s a culture hence the tagline “Comics Are Hip Hop.”

At the end of the day, those who complain and worry about gatekeepers, quite simply aren’t doing the work. They’re trying “game” the system and plan for success before putting pencil to paper. The rest of us are working the program and making it happen. There’s a whole community already there and it is strong. Y’all just need to pay attention… Because there are no gatekeepers.

Vol. 07 – Mass Appeal… The Cipher continues!

BTW, The Kickstarter of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape Vol. 07. – Mass Appeal launches in June 1. Click here to be among the first notified!

www.griotenterprises.com

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